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Education Reimagined

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America wants transformation in its educational system. But can we agree on how to get there?

Convergence

Everyone wants the best education for their children. But parents and teachers don’t always agree on how to get there.

In this episode we talk with two education leaders whose views clashed when they first met. Dr. Gisèle Huff is a philanthropist and longtime proponent of school choice, including charter schools. Becky Pringle spent her career in public education. A science teacher for three decades, today she is president of the National Education Association, the nation’s largest labor union.

After some deep initial skepticism these women and other leaders came together and developed a transformational vision for US education. Along the way they developed a deep respect for one another, and a friendship that has helped each of them through personal tragedies.

This podcast was co-produced in partnership with Convergence Center for Policy Resolution and is one of a series of podcasts that Common Ground Committee and Convergence are producing together. Each highlights the common ground that resulted from one of Convergence’s structured dialogues-across-differences.

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Ep. 36: Education Reimagined

Becky Pringle

National Education Association president Becky Pringle is a fierce social justice warrior, defender of educator rights, an unrelenting advocate for all students and communities of color, and a valued and respected voice in the education arena. A middle school science teacher with 31 years of classroom experience, Becky is singularly focused on using her intellect, passion, and purpose to unite the members of the largest labor union with the entire nation, and using that collective power to transform public education into a racially and socially just and equitable system that is designed to prepare every student to succeed in a diverse and interdependent world.

Becky’s passion for students and educators, combined with her first-hand classroom experience, equip her to lead the movement to reclaim public education as a common good. Becky was elected in 2020 as COVID-19 ravaged Black, Brown, and indigenous communities nationwide.

Before assuming NEA’s top post, Becky served as NEA vice president and before that as NEA secretary-treasurer. She directed NEA’s work to combat institutional racism, and spotlight systemic patterns of racism and educational injustice that impact students. Under Becky’s guidance, NEA works to widen access and opportunity by demanding changes to policies, programs, and practices. The Association’s goal is to ensure the systemic, fair treatment of people of all races so that equitable opportunities and outcomes are within reach for every student. This is why Becky is a staunch advocate for students who have disabilities, identify as LGBTQ+, are immigrants, or are English Language Learners.

Those who know Becky best know that she is also a passionate Philadelphia Eagles fan who loves anything purple, and for two special someones who hold the coveted title of “Best Nana B” in the world.

Gisèle Huff

Dr. Gisèle Huff is president of the Gerald Huff Fund for Humanity. The loss of her son Gerald to pancreatic cancer in 2018 spurred Dr. Huff to apply her talents and energy to a cause they both shared – concern about technological unemployment, the growing economic divide and the potential of UBI to help address these challenges on a broad scale. Dr. Huff served as San Francisco University High School’s director of development for twelve years, and the Executive Director for the Jaquelin Hume Foundation for over twenty years where her return on investment for launching blended learning is legendary. 

During her tenure funding initiatives and raising awareness for education reform, she has held numerous board positions, including founding member and chairman of the Board of Directors of The Learning Accelerator and the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, member of the Board of Directors of iNACOL and the Advisory Board of Education Reimagined. She currently serves on the board of Income Movement. 

Her substantial policy proficiency includes the Advisory Board for Harvard University’s Program on Education Policy, the advisory committee for the National Charter School Research Project at the Center on Reinventing Public Education, and the Executive Committee of the Digital Learning Council. She is the recipient of the Thomas A. Roe Award and the iNACOL Huff Lifetime Achievement Award. She earned a Ph.D. in political science, with a concentration in political philosophy, at Columbia University.

Want to hear more? Check out our podcast page to see all the discussions!

The Long-Term Care Crisis

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America’s long-term care system needs much more than a facelift. Is there a common path to solutions?

Convergence

Most baby boomers who retire today can expect to live years longer than their parents or any previous generation. That’s the good news. But there’s a greatly increased need for long-term care as they age. The current system is in crisis and needs much more than a facelift.

In this episode, we hear first from a policy expert, Howard Gleckman, of the Tax Policy Institute, who explains why solutions to this crisis have been so hard to find. We also interview Stuart Butler and Paul Van de Water on their differences in overpaying for long-term care, and how they came to find common ground.

This podcast was co-produced in partnership with Convergence Center for Policy Resolution and is one of a series of podcasts that Common Ground Committee and Convergence are producing together.

Convergence brings together key stakeholders of an issue to develop policies that deliver the most value to the greatest number of people. These projects emphasize collaboration and often result in friendships among people with strongly held opposing positions. Convergence recently published Rethinking Care for Older Adults, a report with recommendations to improve care, housing, and services for seniors.

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Ep. 35: The Long-Term Care Crisis

Howard Gleckman

Howard Gleckman is a Senior Fellow at The Urban Institute in Washington, D.C., where he is affiliated with both the Tax Policy Center and the Program on Retirement Policy.  He is the author of Caring for Our Parents (St. Martin’s Press).

He is the author of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center’s fiscal policy blog Tax Vox and a weekly blog on aging issues for Forbes.com.  

Mr. Gleckman served on the National Academy of Social Insurance Study Panel on Long-Term Services and Supports (2018-2019). He was a convener of the Long-Term Care Financing Collaborative (2012-2016), a 2006-2007 Media Fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation and a 2006-2008 Visiting Fellow at the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. He was senior correspondent in the Washington bureau of Business Week, where he covered health and elder care as well as tax and budget issues, for nearly 20 years.

In 2016, he was named one of the nation’s top 50 Influencers in Aging by Next Avenue. He was a 2003 National Magazine Award finalist for “The Coming Revolution in Health Care” for Business Week.

Mr. Gleckman is president of the Jewish Council for the Aging of Greater Washington, a member of the Johns Hopkins Health System’s National Capital Region Executive Governance Committee, and a trustee of the Johns Hopkins Medicine Patient Safety and Quality Committee. He previously served as chair of the board of trustees of Suburban Hospital (Bethesda, MD), trustee of Johns Hopkins Medicine (2017-2019), as a member of the board of the Symphony of the Potomac, and president of Tifereth Israel Congregation (Wash, DC).

Stuart Butler

Stuart Butler is a senior fellow in Economic Studies at The Brookings Institution. Prior to joining Brookings, Butler spent 35 years at The Heritage Foundation as director of the Center for Policy Innovation and earlier as vice president for Domestic and Economic Policy Studies.  He is also a visiting fellow at the Convergence Center for Policy Resolution. He is a member of the editorial board of Health Affairs and the board of Mary’s Center, a group of Washington, D.C.-area community health centers.

Butler also serves on several advisory councils, including for the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship, the Aspen Institute’s Family Prosperity Innovation Community, and the March of Dimes. He is also a member of the Advisory Group for the National Academy’s Culture of Health Program.

Previously he was a member of the Board on Health Care Services of the National Academy of Medicine and served on the panel of health advisers for the Congressional Budget Office. For over 10 years he taught as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy, and in 2002 he was an Institute of Politics Fellow at Harvard University. In 1990, he served as a member of Housing Secretary Jack Kemp’s Advisory Commission on Regulatory Barriers to Affordable Housing.

Most recently, Butler has played a prominent role in the debate over health care and reform, arguing for solutions based on individual choice, state innovation, market competition, and social determinants of health. He has also been working on a wide range of other issues, including budget process reform, the future of higher education, economic mobility, and federal entitlement reform.

Stuart Butler was born in Shrewsbury, England and emigrated to the United States in 1975. He was educated at St. Andrews University in Scotland, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in physics and mathematics in 1968, a Master of Arts degree in economics and history in 1971, and a Ph.D. in American economic history in 1978.

Paul Van de Water

Paul N. Van de Water is a Senior Fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, where he specializes in Social Security, Medicare, and health coverage issues. His previous positions include Vice President for Health Policy at the National Academy of Social Insurance, Assistant Deputy Commissioner for Policy at the Social Security Administration, Associate Commissioner for Research, Evaluation, and Statistics at Social Security, and Assistant Director for Budget Analysis at the Congressional Budget Office. Van de Water holds an A.B. with the highest honors in economics from Princeton University and a Ph.D. in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Want to hear more? Check out our podcast page to see all the discussions!

Depolarizing America: Building Consensus Step-by-Step

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These political veterans disagree on many issues…but agree that now is the time for bridge building. Here’s why.

Kelly Johnston and Rob Fersh disagree strongly on many issues, and voted differently in the 2020 presidential election. But they are friends and “agree on major steps that must be taken for the nation to heed President-elect Biden’s welcome call for us to come together.”

Both believe that constructive steps must be taken to help build trust among Democrats and Republicans, despite deep polarization and a firm resistance to bipartisanship from both ends of the political spectrum. They encourage open dialogue between sectors and interest groups whose views diverge in an effort to deal with divisive political discourse.

Read more from Johnstone & Fersh in an op-ed for The Hill: “We agree on almost nothing except how to solve problems across the political divide.”

Rob Fersh founded Convergence Center for Policy Resolution, and previously worked for Democrats on the staffs of three congressional committees. Kelly Johnston, also a founding board member of Convergence, is a committed Republican and former Secretary of the U.S. Senate. In this episode of Let’s Find Common Ground produced in partnership with Convergence, we talk with both Fersh and Johnston about bridge building and why this work is so urgently needed in an era of political gridlock.

Click here for bonus audio: Rob Fersh describes the process at Convergence.

Read the Episode Transcript

Ep. 23- Depolarizing America: Building Consensus

Rob Fersh

Rob Fersh is a Senior Advisor and the Founder of Convergence Center for Policy Resolution, a non-profit organization founded in 2009 to promote consensus solutions to issues of domestic and international importance. Immediately prior, Rob served as the United States country director for Search for Common Ground, an international conflict resolution organization. While at SFCG, he directed national policy consensus projects on health care coverage for the uninsured and U.S.-Muslim relations.

In the 1986-98 period, Rob served as president of the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), a leading NGO working to alleviate hunger in the United States. Rob also served on the staffs of three Congressional committees, working for U.S. Representative Leon Panetta and for Senators Patrick Leahy and Edmund Muskie. While a Congressional staff member and at FRAC, he was deeply involved in shepherding passage of bipartisan legislation to reduce hunger in the United States. Rob has held additional positions in the federal executive branch and non-profit sector. He was a 1994 recipient of the Prudential Foundation Prize for Non-Profit Leadership. Rob holds a law degree from Boston University and a bachelor’s degree in Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University, where he has served as a guest lecturer and co-instructor of a course on collaborative decision making and public policy. He is married, has four children, and two grandchildren.

Kelly Johnston

Kelly Johnston retired from the Campbell Soup Company in October 2018 after a 16-year career as Vice President-Government Affairs. Previously, Kelly spent nearly 25 years in Washington, DC in several leadership positions within the executive and legislative branches of the federal government, politics, and the trade association world. He was Executive Vice President for Government Affairs and Communications at the National Food Processors’ Association (NFPA), serving as the organization’s chief government affairs and communications officer for nearly 6 years.

From 1995 to 1997, he was the Secretary of the US Senate, the Senate’s chief legislative, financial and administrative officer. Kelly has also served as Staff Director of the Senate Republican Policy Committee; Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs in the U.S. Department of Transportation; and chief of staff or press secretary to three Members of Congress.

Kelly remains active in the non-profit community. He is a founding board member of the Bonnie and Bill Stubblefield Institute for Civil Political Communication at Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, WV. He also currently serves on the board of Business-Industry Political Action Committee (BIPAC), which is dedicated to helping employers educate their employees on public policy issues of importance to their jobs. He is a former chairman of the Canadian American Business Council and former co-chair of the Congressional Management Foundation. He blogs on public policy issues, history, and politics at Against the Grain.

A native of Oklahoma, Kelly earned his B.A. degree in Communications in 1976 from the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, where he has been named to the Alumni Hall of Fame. He attended Georgetown University’s Graduate School of Demography in Washington, D.C. He has guest lectured on politics, government, lobbying and communications at several universities, including Yale University, the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Pennsylvania, George Washington University, Shepherd University, and Burlington County College in New Jersey.

He and his wife, Adrienne, live in Arlington, Virginia. They have two sons.